Exhibit: Costumes, Clothing, and Technology: The Brain Dress and Beyond


The Brain Dress was designed for Marlene’s inauguration into the National Academy of Sciences. It was sewn using custom-made fabric, which was printed using the data from a high-resolution structural neuroimaging scan of Marlene’s brain. The dress was then encrusted around the skirt and on the collar with about 30 LEDs in blue, yellow and red, the typical colors used to denote brain activation by those studying how the brain functions. The LEDs are covered with a layer of the brain fabric so that the light is diffused, rather than punctate, again reflecting the standard way of denoting brain activation on the surface of the brain. The LEDs are attached via conductive thread to an Arduino Lilypad microcontroller sewn onto the side of the dress and are activated by sound through a microphone embedded in the collar of the dress. The wires from the microphone pass under the arm of the wearer and emerg to connect with the microcontroller, which is programmed to randomly activate a subset of the LEDs at any one time. Marlene’s voice (or noise from the environment) serves to drive the LEDs. It is a fine representation of clothing that works!

The predecessor of The Brain Dress was the "Bag Creature" which was a part of Sophie's masters thesis in costume production. The Bag Creature features similar technology to the Brain Dress and represents an exploration of costume, wearable technology, and performance art.

Exhibit Location: unassigned

About The Maker

Clothing, Costumes, and Technology: The Brain Dress and Beyond

Sophie Hood is a costume maker and teacher: Exploring the connections between theater arts, technology, and the fine arts, she is specifically interested in integrating technologies such as arduino, as well as eco friendly/reuse materials into costumes and clothing in order to create interactive, artistic garments that in turn help more effectively tell stories. With an undergraduate degree in sculpture from Dartmouth College, and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in costume production, she is working to take these skills, and while working collaboratively with designers, create functional, well made, and innovative costumes while still drawing upon and learning from traditional techniques. The relationships between the theater world, the fine arts world, and new technologies are ever growing and she is interested in exploring them. Marlene Behrmann Cohen is a scientist with a longstanding interest in making clothes and in fashion. Her research is concerned with understanding the complexity of human behavior and the brain mechanisms that support this behavior. The experiments she conducts involve measuring signals when humans receive and process sensory input (vision and audition) and she has skill in data collection, storage and interpretation. Developing clothing with technology potential for measuring and recording signals and for responding to the state of the individual is a natural application of her research interests into the domain of wearable technology.